WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Donald Trump appeared open to signing the legislation – which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border – White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

There was also concern brewing among some liberal Democrats over concessions made during congressional negotiations related to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other issues, though it was unclear how widespread that opposition would become.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday that she was confident lawmakers could come to terms on the outstanding issues.

“We have to. We have to. I think we’re in a pretty good place,” Pelosi said.


A White House official told The Washington Post on Wednesday morning that Trump sees signing the legislation, if passed by Congress, as the way to avoid another shutdown.

But Trump would also likely pursue an executive order to reallocate additional federal funds to barrier projects, the official said, in addition to signing legislation. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The compromise, which bipartisan negotiators struck late Monday after reviving stalled talks, includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new fences along the border, short of the $5.7 billion Trump had sought for 234 miles of steel walls.

“The president wants to see what the final package looks like, and he’ll make a decision at that point,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.

Sanders said that the White House is looking “at every option possible” to find additional funding for the president’s marquee campaign promise of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“He’s okay because he’s going to get the job done, no matter what,” said Sanders during an appearance on the Fox News Channel. “You can rest assured, the president promised he’s going to build the wall, and he’s going to deliver.”


Sanders later told reporters at the White House that Democrats would be to blame if there is another shutdown.

“If it happens again, it will be because the Democrats completely failed to do their job,” she asserted.

Asked Wednesday morning when a final bill would be filed, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said, “I really don’t know.”

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the Rules Committee, said a House vote on the legislation seemed unlikely Wednesday.

If a bill is not signed by Trump by midnight Friday, another partial government shutdown will ensue.

Among the outstanding issues in the sweeping legislation is a push by some Democrats to add language that would provide back pay to federal contractors. Some 800,000 federal workers, and tens of thousands of contractors, went without pay during the 35-day shutdown, and crucial services at airports, food inspection sites, the Internal Revenue Service and elsewhere were jeopardized. Under a law signed by Trump, workers but not contractors are receiving back pay.


The dispute over the Violence Against Women Act centered on whether to use the spending bill to extend it. Some Democrats fear that would remove the impetus to pass a broader stand-alone bill in the works. Funding for the legislation is scheduled to expire Friday.

Another flash point was the question of how many detention beds can be maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The deal reached Monday omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on immigrants detained within the United States – as opposed to at the border. At the same time, it sets funding for the average number of detention beds maintained by ICE at 45,274, an increase from levels funded in the 2018 budget.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was among the liberal Democrats voicing disapproval of those provisions.

“We actually ended up with more appropriated beds,” she said, adding that she is inclined to oppose the bill, but might have to “hold her nose” and vote for it.

Jayapal added that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not trying to kill the bill.


During a Democratic caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Pelosi and Lowey sought to build support for the legislation by talking up provisions favorable to Democrats and emphasizing Trump didn’t get the wall funding he wanted, according to people in the room.

Coming out of the meeting, Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., said he would support the legislation and predicted it would pass with just enough votes from Republicans and Democrats.

Asked about opposition from liberal Democrats, Meeks said: “When you strike a deal, you get some things that you want, and you get some things that you don’t like. A majority of our members will vote for it.”

In voicing his support for the bill, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., emphasized what it doesn’t include.

“We accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” he said. “We’re not going to get a wall from sea to shining sea.”

The Washington Post’s Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade contributed to this article.

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